Rafting through Mule Creek Canyon

by Ellie Friedmann

Mule Creek Canyon is often one of the most memorable parts of our Rogue River rafting trips for both guests and guides. It is one of my favorites too due to its mix of scenery, geology, and unique whitewater.

Where is Mule Creek Canyon?

Mule Creek Canyon is a half-mile stretch that emerges in the second half of the Rogue River trip, just above a large rapid known as Blossom Bar.

Mule Creek Canyon on the Rogue River

Mule Creek Canyon on the Rogue River

Two geologic formations frame the river. If you get the chance to look to your left, basalt and sandstone pillows, twists, and slants to make the Dothan Formation. Looking to your right, you will then see dark grey and green bulges of ocean crust and volcanic sheets making up the Rogue Formation. Over time, the river helped carve a narrow path between these two jagged formations, causing water to accelerate and bounce irregularly through the smaller, rougher, space.

Reading Water in Mule Creek Canyon

Because of this acceleration, the Rogue river becomes faster, more unpredictable, and lots of fun. Understanding rivers and their rapids is like learning another language. Rocks, currents, and waves are the words, rowing provides punctuation, and successful navigation puts these elements together just like reading.

In Mule Creek Canyon, there are big waves, contrasting currents, boils, as well as combinations of all three. I love this section because while rafting you have to be on your toes, constantly “reading” the water and reacting to these interesting features.

The Coffeepot

The crown jewel of the stretch is the rapid called The Coffeepot, where the river narrows even further and the water becomes confused swirls. I find it to be just a little different every time. Getting a big boat through a small space is a challenge but the guides set safety on either side which helps everyone navigate without mishap.

Rafting through the famous Coffeepot in Mule Creek Canyon

Rafting through the famous Coffeepot in Mule Creek Canyon

The Coffeepot is also great opportunity for rowing school students to put together all they have learned, responding to its abrupt changes and working their way to the other side.

Leaving the Canyon

Once through The Coffeepot, the river mellows surprisingly quickly. The contrast is welcome as you get to swim and relax in a special place, passing one of the most beautiful waterfalls of the trip.

Enjoying Stair Creek as it tumbles into the Rogue River

Enjoying Stair Creek as it tumbles into the Rogue River

I tend to row a little slower here so I can enjoy the surroundings as well. I’m looking for good company, I hope you can join me and experience Mule Creek Canyon on your next river trip!

Originally Published: | Updated on



Ellie Friedmann

Ellie is a New Mexico native and studied Biochemistry and Plan II at the University of Texas. While in college she discovered whitewater by canoeing the Rio Grande and then founded the Longhorn Stream Team. She is also interested in freshwater biology and water quality, combining science and river running whenever possible.

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